My name is Jagruti Panda. I live in a small town of Nuapada district from Odisha. I’m doing my Master’s degree in industrial chemistry, and I volunteer with the local Youth Red Cross and Nehru Yuva Kendra.
Growing up in Nuapada, I’ve seen my people facing all kinds of difficulties. The biggest of these is the availability of health care. Simply take a look at how few doctors there are in hospitals at the district headquarters! There should be a total of 32 doctors present in a hospital, but in reality, it’s difficult to find any more than 15. In a tribal area, this means people are left to deal with all kinds of health problems.
While volunteering, I saw first-hand how this affected patients who needed blood donors. It was a huge challenge for my group at the Youth Red Cross when we had to, first, find a donor with an O- blood type, and then convince him to help save two lives by donating blood.
In the beginning, it was difficult to reach out to people. Because many in my tribe did not know about the medical facilities and schemes being provided by the Odisha government, they began following the path of “Maobad”. But I was determined that my community should benefit from development!
The main reason I started working in this field is to help others. For example, one time we collected the old books from the students of our institution and donated them to the tribal people in the area. The smile on their faces was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Small acts like these helped us all develop empathy. In turn, we were able to help them understand that the Maoists are not their friends.
It was through our blood donation camps that we were able to connect with the people of the town. A friendship grew, trust grew, and we talked with them about turning towards the path of development. We talked about the importance of good health and hygiene in tribal areas.
From Nuapada, I found my way to New Delhi last year where the Youth Parliament was being organised. There, we learnt about the key problems of different states and how state governments were working on them. We also talked about women’s empowerment. In fact, we gave Indian parliamentarians a lesson on it! We told them how important it was to create a new generation of women who not only make happy families but are also capable of representing people and ruling a state.
This Youth Parliament made me confident that, while problems are everywhere, we—the new generation—can make a big change. Thanks to this journey, I even made good friends from across India. Together, we raise awareness about and discuss all sorts of problems and how to solve them.
My advice to all socially conscious young people reading this is to look out for problems that tribal people face. Yes, you may not see many problems, but they exist. And they can be solved. Interact with tribal people; talk to them about development; promote their handlooms and other handicrafts which are their sources of income.
Lastly, as a member of the Red Cross society, my main advice is to help people who need blood. The feeling of donating blood and giving someone a new life is beautiful. So, work for society without wanting anything in return! And trust me, it will keep your soul happy.
About the author: Jagruti Panda belongs to Nuapada district, Odisha and currently pursuing her master’s degree at Vir Surendrasai University, Burla, Odisha in Industrial Chemistry. Jagruti is an active volunteer of Red Cross and Nehru Yuva Kendra, Nuapada and likes to do social work with the support of her family and friends. Last year, she was shortlisted among 10 other candidates for the National Youth Parliament organised by UN Volunteers and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.